Based on the dismal performance of Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Alberta Health Services CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos at a news conference yesterday morning, it is clear the United Conservative Party Government and AHS are now in a desperate scramble to find someone to blame for the continuing motel health care meltdown. 

Alberta Health Services CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Ms. LaGrange and Ms. Mentzelopoulos had no explanation for how a partly paralyzed stroke patient came to be put in a taxicab after being discharged from an Edmonton hospital and driven 35 kilometres south to a Travelodge motel in Leduc that he believed was a continuing care facility able to look after his infirmities. 

Instead, he got a motel room too small for his wheelchair and fast food delivered by people working for a firm called Contentment Social Services who dropped by from time to time. 

In response to grilling by reporters, Ms. LaGrange and Ms. Mentzelopoulos pointed to the patient himself, the AHS social worker who helped him find care arrangements, Contentment Social Services, the list on which company appeared, and the unknown creator of the list of care providers as possible scapegoats.

It quickly became painfully obvious no one at the Health Ministry, the Social Services Ministry, the Mental Health and Addictions Ministry, or Alberta Health Services – least of all Ms. LaGrange and Ms. Mentzelopoulos – has a clue in a carload how the list was created, when it was created, who created it, or whether the care providers on it were vetted in any way. 

Also clear was that neither the government nor AHS is about to accept responsibility for what happened.

Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon, who we have been assured is also on the job (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If you need continued care when you’re discharged from hospital, they both indicated, that’s strictly between you and whoever you hire with your own money to pay for it. (I use the term continued care because AHS insists such recently discharged patients do not require continuing care as defined by the health ministry’s current terminology.)

As Ms. Mentzelopoulos put it, “options are presented, and ultimately the individual has a conversation with the provider and looks at that themselves and makes their own decision.”

As for whether the providers on the list used by AHS were vetted, she responded to a reporter’s question by saying, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘vetted.’ There’s a lot of different providers of different types. There’s even market options.”

Anyway, Ms. Mentzelopoulos said, “it can be an iterative process in terms of what might be appropriate” – although what she had in mind by her repeated use of that mathematical term is far from clear. 

“We don’t endorse,” she insisted. “I think the subtext of this is that we somehow are endorsing. We do the work to find out what is available in the same way that an individual might do so if they were looking for care outside of the hospital.” (A Google search, I guess.) 

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams, who likewise is also on the job (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

But as one reporter pointed out, if patients have received the information from AHS officials, they are likely to presume the care providers have been vetted and approved. 

Ms. Mentzelopoulos, a former deputy minister of finance, insisted that AHS had no relationship of any sort with Contentment Social Services – or for that matter with other care companies on the mysterious list used by AHS social workers to help discharged patients find appropriate housing.

Ms. LaGrange agreed, stating, “we have not accredited that agency.” However, she admitted that “there is an implication that because they’re on a list that we have actually approved them.”

“This particular agency is being inauthentic and not transparent with its clientele,” the minister said, promising to permanently remove it from the list of companies as well as to have someone go through the list to see if they can spot any additional questionable operators.

Just-appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health Workforce Engagement Chelsae Petrovic, the Take Back Alberta backed MLA for Livingstone-Macleod (Photo: United Conservative Party).

Asked who created this list, Ms. Mentzelopoulos replied: “There is an iterative process, so at different times there can be different options presented, and to the extent that that constitutes a list, I think it also, it changes, and evolves.”

Sensing trouble, Ms. LaGrange stepped in to assure Albertans the situation is in good hands. “We’ve now identified a problem that probably has existed for quite some time. But you know what? Now that we know there’s a problem, myself, Minister (Jason) Nixon, Minister (Dan) Williams, Athana, we’re all on it, and we’re gonna make sure that we clear this up.”

Are you reassured? 

While the news conference became a forum for reporters to ask questions about the Leduc Travelodge affair, it was called by Ms. LaGrange to brag about how many Albertans have attended the government’s health care engagement sessions, explain that introduction of the UCP’s new continuing-care agency will be delayed until fall, and introduce cabinet’s new Parliamentary Secretary. 

Earlier in the day Premier Danielle Smith announced that Livingstone-Macleod UCP MLA Chelsae Petrovic had been named as Parliamentary Secretary for Health Workforce Engagement. 

NDP Health Critic Luanne Metz (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Petrovic, a former Licensed Practical Nurse and mayor of Claresholm, was endorsed by the leader of the UCP’s Take Back Alberta faction in the last provincial election as a “freedom fighter” and is best known for her view people who have heart attacks should be held responsible for their own illness. 

Ms. Petrovic said at the time her words were taken out of context. She refused to discuss the event at yesterday’s news conference. “I addressed that over a year ago and I stand by that statement,” was all she had to say.

Given Ms. Petrovic’s past remarks, NDP Health Critic Luanne Metz called the appointment “incredibly poor judgment,” adding, “the role of government should be to ensure people have public health care when and where they need it, not to judge people for their health conditions.”

Interestingly, despite the focus of the reporters’ questions at the newser, most news reports emphasized Ms. LaGrange’s not-very-earth-shaking announcements.

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  1. CBC news: so according to Mr Norton Smith- (President of CSSFoundation) the 2nd hotel was “one which they had tried to purchase, but the deal fell through” .
    “We opted for this option because we felt it made great sense…..we are not in the habit of putting ‘clients’ in hotels….”
    Another family said their autistic son is at the 2nd hotel.
    This story gets murkier by the hour. And with the help of some intrepid individuals who are outraged by this, a few other people have been digging into who exactly are Contentment SSF; and none of it looks legitimate imho.
    Norton Smith, Rick Smith, (Danielle Smith)— who are these people?

    Meanwhile, down in Texas, boss lady is showing off her new cowboy hat and promoting how Alberta can double it’s oil and gas production by 2050.

    1. OMG! What a disaster! And typical UCP. LaGrange was completely inept as Education minister & then Smith gave her the Health Minister job! That us b/c Danielle Smith is not very smart.

  2. The Premier and her gang of unprofessionals don’t have a clue how to run a government and how to deal with health care or perhaps its they simply do not care about providing health care to citizens of more modest means. Their financial supporters can afford private services, others not so much,.
    Oh well, at some point, if the government continues on this rail, some will die and the lawsuits can begin. If the government has placed people in these hotel rooms, with alleged care givers whose backgrounds we don’t know wait until a patient is raped, beaten, stolen from. Also given these are motel rooms, with all sorts of people being able to pass by, they can also break in, a patient could sustain some real damage.
    To save a couple of bucks the government is endangering a lot of people.

  3. Will “I’m not sure what you mean by vetted” join “I’m still eating my cookie” when we pinpoint the career death knell of yet another Alberta Health CEO?

    1. Ms. Bremmer: It certainly should. I am not persuaded that will happen, just yet, anyway. A person doesn’t rise to be a deputy minister of finance in two provinces without having a sharp mind, although there was very little to suggest that this was so in Ms. Mentzelopoulos’s performance yesterday. DJC

    2. The verb “to vet”: defined (Britannica Dictionary) as
      “1: to investigate (someone) thoroughly to see if they should be approved or accepted for a job
      They vetted her thoroughly before offering her the job.
      2: to check (something) carefully to make sure it is acceptable
      The book was vetted by several different editors.
      He’s already vetted the plan, so we can start right away.”

      It beggars belief that Ms Mentzelopoulos didn’t know what it meant.

  4. So we now seem to be heading in the direction that hotel health care is not a deliberate new UCP policy, but a situation that arose out of confusion and mismanagement. I’m not sure that approach will work well, particularly as they seem to have trouble so far finding a scapegoat other than their own ineptitude. In fact it may be worse than just admitting it was a bad idea, apologizing sincerely and promising not to do it again. This makes AHS look even more chaotic and there is already a sense the current UCP restructuring is a major cause of the chaos.

    It is interesting to see Nixon’s approach. He is tough and a political survivor. He might as well be wearing a button with “don’t blame me” on it. I suspect he realizes his colleagues are desperately looking for a scapegoat and he wants to ensure it is not him.

    Nixon may succeed if he can credibly assert he had nothing to do with this mess, but his colleagues closer to it may not. In the absence of a credible scapegoat, those in charge – that would probably be the Health Minister, will be blamed by the public.

    So perhaps AHS needs to urgently put out a job posting for a new short term temporary position – scapegoat wanted, as there does not seem to be much interest in the position internally.

  5. Yes
    Not a stellar humanitarian statement when as a nurse , you know the Florence Nightingale compassionate angel of mercy , you manage to disparage the the patient and the ilness rather than possibly find resolution through suggesting a need for preventative education and helping make healthier choices. Not that healthier lifstyles have much bearing on heart failures any more.
    Chelsea has the conservative denial of any responsibility and blame others down pretty good. A cherished conservative trait along with being very responsive to the issues that could possibly hurt them personally or collectively .
    All for Us and none for anybody else ….sounds so UPC doesn’t it?

  6. Ms Petrovic is described as a Licensed Practical Nurse, not just here but by other sources I’ve read online. But, she’s not – at least, not anymore. I couldn’t find her at all when I looked her up a few days ago on the CLPNA Public Registry, but I had her first name wrong – I input the conventional spelling of “Chelsea”, instead of the correct (for her) spelling, “Chelsae”. This morning I rectified that error, and she does appear on the registry … as “Cancelled”.

    Under the terms of the Health Professions Act, no person without a valid practice permit from the relevant regulatory College can hold themselves out as a Nurse, whether it be an RN, an RPN, or as in Ms Petrovic’s case, an LPN. So she should be described as a “former LPN”.

    1. Thanks, Jerry. My first city editor, when I was about 19 years old, yelled at me never to assume anything. Nevertheless, I simply assumed Ms. Petrovic’s registration as an LPN was still current. I have corrected the story. DJC

  7. As if this motelgate hasn’t stirred things up enough, yesterday there was a story on the news how a 5 year old girl with a serious illness had to go to Saskatchewan to get life saving surgery, because it was going to take at least 3 months to get the surgery at the Stollery. The fireworks in question period are no doubt going to carry on!

    1. Alberta has the slowest progress in clearing COVID cancelled surgeries in Canada, thanks to the for profit surgical suite the UCP locked taxpayers into for the foreseeable future. For profit healthcare proving once again it doesn’t improve access, is significantly more expensive than publicly provided service and has less desirable patient outcomes. One might ask why any politician would still standby this disproven delivery, until you see all the UCP connections to the providers and the profits they reap over performing additional surgeries.

  8. Thank you, as always, DC. And this morning what might be the worst apology in Alberta Health’s sorry history: “This is a terrible situation that has come to light. I am sorry that the individual at the centre of this situation feels that the service that he was going to get was misrepresented to him and his family. Going forward, we’re going to do better. We can only acknowledge that there is an issue here that needs to be addressed,” said LaGrange (Edmonton Journal).

    Let’s assume that the government has people who know how to write a proper apology. If so, then we also have to assume that Ms LaGrange tore it up and wrote hers from scratch on a cocktail napkin. “I’m sorry about how he feels!” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Let’s try “I’m sorry that I as minister allowed this to happen on my watch.” “We can only acknowledge that there is an issue here that needs to be addressed.” Wrong again. Let’s try: “I am immediately directing an internal review of all levels of the health department and AHS to ensure this does not happen again”.
    You’re welcome, Minister.

    1. Simon: Thanks for your kind words. You and others who are following this story really should watch the entire video. It is truly remarkable. There are many gems like the one quoted by the Journal. Ms. LaGrange and Ms. Mentzelopoulos share a peculiar verbal quirk: They repeatedly start a sentence that appears to be leading to a conclusion or an admission, and then, at the last moment, veer off with barely a hesitation into something else, often a completely different topic. This makes them both difficult to pin down and hard to quote. Mainstream media in particular is allergic to quoting such incoherent word salad. DJC

      1. There was an interview with Adam Gopnik a writer with the New Yorker which I think is pertinent to illogical bafflegab you note. He said the following:

        “The whole point of it (bafflegab) is to annihilate orderly ideologies, because everything has to turn on the charismatic leader. The more the charismatic leader is inconsistent, the more you can only depend on him or her.”

        He also said something about the futility of trying to protect institutions when the focus should be on attacking those trying to destroy them.

    2. Hi Simon. In the spirit of helping Ms. LaGrange to get her message across, allow me to interpret the quote you’ve provided:

      “It’s terrible that this situation has come to light. I am sorry that the individual affected complained to the media. But we’re going to do better. We have to acknowledge we got caught doing a major screwup, and we’ll cover up much better next time.”

  9. As someone who uses a wheelchair 24/7 and is trying to stay in our condo for as long as possible, we turned to AHS and Homecare. Yes we were provided with a list of about 70 providers to sort through (and that was just for southern Alberta) and relied on friends and AHS staff for guidance. It all worked out for us but it’s easy to see how a total mess like this could occur. I wish him well.

    And there’s a perfectly good way to spell Chelsea. Geez Louise!

  10. I am gob smacked how the UCP goes about their business. How can the electorate vote these clowns in. AHS is overseen by quote from the government website “Mrs. LaGrange also has a pedigree as an entrepreneur, owning a trucking company, as well as running a family farm.” So, this is the person in charge of our health system. We used to call it the Peter principle, promote to the level of incompetency. We are now there. Then they hire a TBA acolyte as one of her minions. I am not making this up.

    1. Hammer– question asked on Reddit: so are we sure it was an ‘Uber’ ? or was it one of her trucks? At this point in time, nothing would surprise me.

    2. No, you re not making this up! The UCP clown show has reached unfathomable proportion. What does it take for rural Albertans to vote the United Corruption party out?

      1. I do not believe that any power in the ‘verse will shift them…not in time for the province to prepare meaningfully for the climate disaster That Is Already Here.

        If I had Canada to redesign, I would abolish the provinces entirely and replace that level of authority with city-states, with home rule everywhere else. Or perhaps with services delivered through beefed up counties reporting to Parliament….small enough to be responsive local conditions, to small to cause mischief and destruction at the national level. No, I don’t know what to do about Québec in that scenario.

  11. So anyone can become a care provider for the vulnerable in Alberta without a vulnerable sector police record check? Gotcha. Now will this government remove the vulnerable sector record check for childcare providers, too? I mean, surely we can trust the private profiteers who provide these services to be above board and all. Haven’t they recently proved how trustworthy and honest they all are?

    Has anyone figured out yet if this so-called “nursing home”, or “motel” was getting government money to provide care in addition to the fees they charged clients?

    Never mind, let’s just hire another libertarian who has no use for people with health problems — for the health portfolio, no less. It’s good to know health experts like LPNs are in charge. And remember kids, cancer is 110% your fault until it’s terminal. Don’t expect Marlaina and the gang to help you out. Have a nice day!

  12. Someone described Lagrange as having “Karla Homolka dead eyes” and it seems appropriate. It’s hard to imagine anyone could be more incompetent and uncaring. Marlaina Smith’s contempt for little people and health care workers comes through loud and clear with the Petrovic stick in the eye.

    1. That’s funny, too bad I can’t take credit for that one! My usual go-to is Ol’ Sleepy Eyes Lagrange, which seems appropriate as she’s clearly asleep at the wheel of whatever ministry she’s supposedly in charge of.

  13. Wow. They barely even started to destroy AHS, and already the New & Improved Health Service™ is falling apart at the seams.

  14. I told you so. See my comment on the previous write up on this story. Bottom line sluff off responsibility pdq.

  15. As the old saying goes, follow the money. And if anyone gets the chance before this story is eventually killed by our fascist provincial government I’d bet dollars to donuts that this Contentment outfit has direct ties to a member of the UCP or their family.

    1. I don’t remember where I was reading it, but someone tried to dig into the history of the company being blamed for all this. It was all pretty shady, but the article mentioned a connection to a trucking company. Then I see in one of the comments here LaGrange has a connection to a trucking company. Want to bet they are one and the same?

  16. I wouldn’t expect things to get better under the poor leadership of the UCP. When things go wrong, because of their very bad decisions, expect more blame shifting. People may even sue the UCP, if it affects them personally.

  17. Now there are media reports (quoting Danielle Smith herself!) that there were 39 people in the “care” of Contentment Social Services—who also failed to pay the hotel bills. Go figure.

    Rural Albertans! Coming soon to (what’s left of) a hospital near you: the same level of “care” experienced by Mr. Canniff. Just don’t expect Jason Nixon to show up with his official government MasterCard on your behalf.

  18. Where is the bottom? Incredibly, I doubt we have reached it where the UCP or batshit Smith is concerned. One thing is certain, Albertans have three more years to find out.

  19. I suspect any “scapegoat” positions with Alberta Health or AHS will be created as union positions, as a matter of ideology. After all, unions are responsible for all the bad things in Alberta we can’t blame on the Federal Liberals.

  20. Little fires everywhere. Hotel healthcare. Daycares with no care. Shelters with no shelter. The fellow with his pants down crying in the city centre yesterday. You’ve seen it, we all have. They are bored of us. The last time I publicly called shame, it was Mike Cardinal who turned his back. Vive la révolution.

  21. The UCP should create a new cabinet post, Minister of Obfuscation and Excuses. The motto would be; We know nothing and it’s always somebody else’s fault. Hmm. Wasn’t Justin Trudeau in Alberta recently?

    1. They remind me of Major Major Major Major on Catch -22 who climbed out his office window every time pilot Yossarian tried to see him about no more flight missions. I’ve met, or not met, many MMMMs in my life, from school principals to now premiers. Smith and her band of donkeys take the cake.

  22. Your head line made me laugh today, because as I was flipping through the news section, nice headline from C.B.C, about second person taken to a hotel instead of a care home. Guess a lot more people know about it now.
    They could blame the driver

  23. Danielle Smith insists to the feds that her provincial government is in charge of delivering health care to Albertans. Trudeau needs to just give her billions of dollars, no strings attached. This is how that works.

  24. For myself the biggest take away from this is that once again, people and their families need to advocate, investigate, research and do what is best for themselves. People keep relying on governments to have their best interests in mind and then get mad when they are let down. The shortfalls are not new, they have been around for decades and still people don’t get engaged with their own health and care. AHS has been corrupt for so long. It needs to be dismantled. Get engaged and be part of a solution for health care, instead of finger pointing. We all know it’s broken.

  25. Early on, there was a suggestion that the owner of Contentment SS was Mark Smith, & that his picture looks a lot like ex-UCP MLA Mark Smith.

    Does anyone know if this has been confirmed or denied?

    1. Greg: It is not confirmed as far as I’m concerned. It is based on a LinkedIn listing for a Mark Smith, which anyone could have set up. A Norton Smith is listed as the only officer of the Contentment Social Services Foundation. Norton Smith has essentially no digital presence on the Internet. A company called N & N Hadiya Enterprise Ltd. is listed as the registrant of Contentment Social Services. A Search of N & N Hadiya indicates it is no longer active. DJC

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